2013 AL Starting Pitcher Tier Rankings: August Update

Finally, we arrive at the final tier rankings update of the season. It’s okay, you could get out your box of tissues and let the tears stream freely down your cheeks.

You’re the Best

Justin Verlander
Felix Hernandez
Yu Darvish
Max Scherzer

I was this close to dropping Justin Verlander from his perch at the top, but the so-called mechanical flaw that was fixed before his last start led to good results. In fact, it was his first start all season in which he didn’t issue a walk! Crazy. After missing a couple of weeks last month with a back injury, Yu Darvish hasn’t missed a beat since returning, striking out 35 batters in 26.1 innings.

As such a huge proponent of SIERA and largely ignoring ERA, I’m kicking myself for not seeing this coming from Max Scherzer. I wouldn’t argue with anyone if they believed he will be the most valuable starter in the American League the rest of the way. Of course, he has been to this point, but depending on which RoS projections you trust more, they don’t expect him to maintain that type of value.

Second Best

David Price
Chris Sale
C.C. Sabathia
James Shields
Jered Weaver

Yes, David Price has been brilliant since returning from his triceps injury, but his strikeout remains down (just a 6.3 K/9 since returning), as he has done it with impeccable control (only 1 walk in 57.1 innings!) and good fortune. Though I had my reasons for keeping Chris Sale in the tier below for so long (mainly due to the weak White Sox offense and innings concerns), I finally moved him up. But not because I changed by tune, moreso because of the concerning struggles of C.C. Sabathia and James Shields.

Sabathia’s ERA estimators suggest bad luck, and during last night’s Yankees game, it was noted that his mechanics and location looked much better. Yet, he has just one strikeout as I type this, so I am not so confident that he’s fixed at all…if there was any fixing to do, rather than just an improvement in luck. Shields, though, I am more concerned about due to his recent control/command issues. Although he walked just two in his last outing, he simply could not find the strike zone with his curve ball and his usual pinpoint command seems to have gone missing. Are the concerns Jeff Zimmerman voiced from his February warning finally manifesting? I don’t know if it’s an injury or just a rough patch.

Looks like Jered Weaver is back…and has been for a while. Those declining skills? Probably a small sample size fluke.

Strong Enough

Anibal Sanchez
Jake Peavy
John Lackey
Matt Moore
Derek Holland
Matt Garza

Jake Peavy‘s value gets a nice boost upon his move from the White Sox to the Red Sox. John Lackey‘s strong skills have been maintained all season. His monthly xFIP has never been above 3.50. Remember he used to be one of the better American League starters, so this isn’t completely out of nowhere. Has Matt Moore‘s elbow bothered him all season? Off and on? Who knows, but it’s obviously a big red flag. He’s expected to return shortly though, so he only gets a small drop in the rankings.

It hasn’t been a totally legit breakout season for Derek Holland, as his SIERA is nearly 60 points higher than his ERA. But, he is displaying the best skills of his career and the SwStk% is way up. Matt Garza makes his debut on the AL version of the tiers and drops a bit from where I ranked him in the latest consensus update. The move to a tougher ballpark and the American League more than offsets the increased win potential from the better offense backing him.

Seeing is Believing

Doug Fister
Hiroki Kuroda
Josh Johnson
Hisashi Iwakuma
Justin Masterson
Jon Lester
C.J. Wilson
R.A. Dickey
Ervin Santana

Hiroki Kuroda is the exact same pitcher he has always been, just with better BABIP and LOB% luck, both of which are sitting at career bests. Is Josh Johnson back? Well, he didn’t allow a home run in his last outing, which is quite the accomplishment. Before that outing, he had allowed a homer in four straight games. I have a hard time believing his balky knee is the culprit considering he has had no problem striking batters out or posting a walk rate right in line with his career.

Just when you think that Jon Lester has turned the corner after two straight 8 strikeout performances, while only allowing 2 runs total in those two starts, he allows 6 runs in 4.1 innings. I wish I had an explanation for his skills decline, but he still shouldn’t be posting mid-4.00 ERAs.

I continued to give R.A. Dickey the benefit of the doubt, but the reality is, his monthly xFIP has never been below 4.22. He drops within the tier, as last year looks like a distant memory.

I’m Not Okay (I Promise)

Alex Cobb
Ivan Nova
Scott Kazmir
Danny Salazar
Jeremy Hellickson
Erasmo Ramirez
Rick Porcello
Felix Doubront
Hector Santiago
Ryan Dempster
Roberto Hernandez

Alex Cobb is expected to return shortly and I am cautiously optimistic. He was posting fantastic skills before the unfortunate incident, but one wonders if it will affect him psychologically and hamper his performance. It will be a wait and see situation, but he has the potential to deliver much greater value than this tier suggests.

Danny Salazar joins the tiers and although he allowed 4 runs in 7 innings in his return to the Indians last night, he also struck out 10 versus just 1 walk. It also came against the Tigers, the second best offense in baseball by wOBA. He’s still just a rookie with all of 13 MLB innings to his name at this point, so I am trying to contain my excitement. But damn he looks to be a good one. Too bad his extended time in the rotation has to come at the expense of Corey Kluber. But fear not Corey Kluber Society members, regular meetings will still be held. Phew.

Well, Erasmo Ramirez‘s first four starts haven’t exactly gone as hoped. The fly ball rate is worrisome at the moment, but assuming he gets that back down, he should have some value in shallower mixed leagues.

Livin’ on the Edge

Phil Hughes
Dan Straily
Jarrod Parker
Tommy Milone
Alexi Ogando
Jose Quintana
Chris Archer
A.J. Griffin
Garrett Richards
Bartolo Colon
Scott Feldman
Chris Tillman
Wei-Yin Chen
Zach McAllister
Bud Norris
Jarred Cosart

Though Jarrod Parker has posted sub-4.00 ERAs every month since April, his xFIP marks have exceeded 4.00, and was even above 5.00 in July. The only decision I had to make was whether or not to drop him to the bottom tier, not whether to promote him a tier. Bartolo Colon, meet regression. It was bound to happen sooner than later. And, he still has a further ways to fall.

I stuck Jarred Cosart here. Obviously, his ERA is ridiculous at 0.96 over 28.0 innings spanning 4 starts. But, he’s walked more than he has struck out and owns an unsightly 5.10 SIERA. The only reason he isn’t in the bottom tier is because his fastball has averaged nearly 95 mph and he has induced a ton of ground balls. So the seeds are there for an intriguing skill set long-term. But, he doesn’t seem ready just yet.

The Great Disappointment

Andy Pettitte
John Danks
Kyle Gibson
Jordan Lyles
Miguel Gonzalez
J.A. Happ
Martin Perez
Ubaldo Jimenez
Kevin Correia
Esmil Rogers
Andre Rienzo
Tommy Hanson
Samuel Deduno
Mark Buehrle
Jason Vargas
Joe Saunders
Wade Davis
Jeremy Guthrie
Bruce Chen

With a 3.17 ERA are acceptable 1.29 WHIP, Samuel Deduno has been getting some recent love. But with a history of terrible control (and a F-Strike% of just 51%) and a poor strikeout rate (backed by a low SwStk%), he’s getting by with smoke and mirrors. The 60%+ ground ball rate is great, but that just makes him Chien-Ming Wangian. Except Wang had a powerful Yankees offense to boost his wins total. Deduno does not have the luxury of a strong offense supporting him.

For some reason, Bruce Chen has also been getting added in leagues. This is the same Bruce Chen then sports a career 4.49 ERA and 1.37 WHIP and is now 36 years old. I hope the 2.03 ERA hasn’t sucked you in. His SIERA sits at 4.13 and that’s with more than half of his innings coming in relief, where skills (and resulting SIERA) are usually better. Don’t touch him…in any league.


Matt Harrison
Brett Anderson
Brett Myers
Clay Buchholz

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Steamer FIP projections have Sanchez ending with a FIP around the projected FIP of Verlander and Shields and far better than Weaver. Why are you holding on to his past seasons even more than a projection system?